The state of governance in Bangladesh has a chequered history. The country s battle for independence, and its history of military dictatorships and dysfunctional democracy, have brought challenges in terms of establishing a sound system of governance. The five pillars of public governance have posed formidable obstacles to establishing and reforming key institutions, refining processes and strategies of management and guiding the country towards a more efficient and effective system. Here we analyse the backgrounds of legislators elected to parliament in 1991, 1996 and 2001, legislative accountability, functional mechanisms, and the constraints of regulatory, administrative and economic institutions in order to examine how poor governance practices have created high levels of patronage in return for short-term political gains. We argue that state institutions have been captured by members of a powerful nexus who have developed a symbiotic relationship with the state, affecting its institutional capacity to reduce corruption, strengthen transparency and accountability, and allow the judiciary and public bureaucracy to work professionally.